Monday, June 29, 2009

Carpe Corpus

I just finished Carpe Corpus, the 6th book in the Morganville Vampire Series, and I've got to say, I really enjoyed the series. And I'm done. I know that there's another book in the works, but I also know that the series was originally intended only to be six books long. And that felt like the end to me.

This is one of the things that I hate the most about the publishing industry. They're only concerned with money. A series is making money? Great. Keep churning it out. After all, we know people will buy more and more of these books. And...why? What would be the point of stirring up Morganville again. The themes are explored. The characters have made their arcs. It's like when they renewed The X-Files for more seasons than it needed. Let good things die. Let good things go out when they're good. There's no reason to repeat them ad nauseum.

My favorite thing about the Morganville books was the way Rachel Caine handled the vampires. There was lots of moral ambiguity. They weren't necessarily just blood-sucking monsters. They had depth and compassion on occasion. But overall, they were simply cold. I think that, truthfully, that is what living forever would do to a person. It would eventually make you jaded and unfeeling. And I particularly enjoyed her insight into vampires, especially at a period of time when vampires are really done to death.

I'm not sure what to read next. I've really been enjoying my foray into YA fiction. It's really been like discovering that there were all these authors that I didn't know existed, like a hidden treasure trove of delights. And YA fiction is good stuff. It gets to the point, pumps up the drama, pumps up the action, and is always just, well, fun. Send any recommendations you might have my way.

I'm really not sure how to end my own YA trilogy. I've been agonizing over it for weeks. I think there's a lot more pressure these days. Before, it was just me and my keyboard. And I could hardly force my friends to take the time to read a whole novel on their screens. Now Jason and Azazel have a bit of an audience. A few hundred people who are reading their current exploits, believe it or not, on computer screens, without compulsion. And I really don't want to let those people down, because I know that I form strong emotional attachments to characters I read about in books. But whatever is going on in my head, my muse seems to have left the building, at least for now.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lord of Misrule (Morganville Vampires 5) and Female Teenage Sexuality

So, I'm about 3/4 of the way through Lord of Misrule, the fifth of the Morganville Vampire series, which I've been obsessively reading since I got out of school two weeks ago. (That's four books in two weeks. I'm slipping! I so used to read faster than this!!)

I suppose we can excuse my lack of speed reading because I've been slogging away at getting two novel manuscripts ready for publication. I had a flash of burning insight sometime Saturday night, in which I realized: IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TO HOLD OFF PUBLISHING BREATHLESS UNTIL AFTER THE SERIALIZATION ONLINE IS OVER.

I mean, seriously. I think I have maybe 200 readers of Breathless. Maybe. It's really hard to get accurate numbers, because I have to go from page hits, and since some people are obviously reading the pdf version, they show up as being on the site for less than a second in the reports. So I figure that if I publish the book version halfway through the serialization, at least 50 of those people will be willing to fork over $12.99 to find out what the heck happens to Jason and Azazel. Maybe. We'll see. So I fast tracked the book to createspace, getting the interior and exterior files ready in one day. (exhausting, let me tell you.) I'm in the agonies of waiting for proof copies currently, and I'm not a very patient person.

So, again, Lord of Misrule. I had a hard time with the beginning of this book because it was very different from the others. At this point in the series, Morganville has been attacked by some weird old vampire dude and so everything turns chaotic fast. There are riots and buildings being burnt and all of the characters are separated for a long time. At first, it kind of threw me off, and I was jonesing for more Claire-Shane time.

Being as I am not patient, I stopped and read some reviews of the book at this time, which promised there would be some nice moments for the couples. So I kept reading. And I wasn't disapppointed. There were definitely some nice romantic moments in store. I haven't quite finished the book. That's probably what I'm going to do for the rest of the evening after I finish this.

Finally, I did get a nice Claire and Shane scene. Well. Sort of. See...I explained that at this point, Morganville is burning and everything's chaotic and people are dying. Plus, we as readers have no real idea where Amelie, the Founder and protector the town is. And, well, things look pretty bleak. So Shane and Claire take some time to themselves, where, freaked out as they are, they engage in pretty heavily making out in Claire's bed.

At which point, Shane then stops himself and leaves.'s the part where I start to get a bit confused. Okay, first of all Shane is 18 and Claire is 16. Now, at some point in the first few books, Shane promises not to "take advantage" of Claire, who really technically is jailbait or whatever. This is all fine and good. But the series portrays Shane and Claire (in an earlier book) as sharing a bed and not having sex.

Which, as you might remember, is a pretty heavy factor in another teenage vampire series, namely Twilight, where the guy is also a "little" older than the main character.

In both of these books, the girl is jonesing for sex, but the older, wiser guy holds back for both of them and says, "No, we have to wait."

Listen up, teenage girls: BOYS LIKE THAT DO NOT EXIST.

Furthermore, if you are in a relationship with a boy who you want to have sex with and he doesn't, for whatever reason, want to have sex with you, it's probably NOT going to be a healthy relationship.

Teenage boys think about sex all the time. (Most teenage girls probably do too. I did, anyway. I can't speak for my gender.) If for some reason, a guy DOESN'T want to have sex with you, there's probably something wrong with him, (emotionally or psychologically. Seriously. That is very abnormal) or he has beliefs about sex that aren't lining up with yours (that is, if you want to have sex and he doesn't). Either way, unless this guy is far and away your soul mate (which let's face it, rarely happens in high school), he's not worth it.

Next, I want to be very clear with you all about one thing: Several times in my youth, I have slept in a bed with a guy I was attracted to and who was attracted to me and who said he did not want to have sex with me. "We'll just sleep," we said. I have never once been able to achieve this just sleeping thing. If you get in bed with someone and the two of you are mutually attracted to each other--you're going to have sex. Do not believe these books that try to tell you that you can sleep in bed with a guy and just kiss. You can't.

Finally, I guess I'm just kind of confused about what sort of messages these books are sending about feminity and sexuality. The idea that a girl wants to have sex, but her boyfriend, the older and wiser male, holds back because he doesn't think she's ready (besides being unrealistic) is sexist. It assumes that boys know better than girls in relationships. They don't. Nobody really knows better. Healthy relationships should be partnerships. In healthy relationships, people should trust their partners to know what's best themselves, not decide for the other person and then withhold a certain activity. Withholding sex is actually a way that some abusive men control their partners. It's not cool. It's creepy.

On top of the sexism and unequality, I'm just not sure why everybody gets their panties in a twist about teenage girls and sex. You know, my grandmother got married and had her first kid when she was seventeen. And that was only about sixty years ago, and it wasn't atypical. It was normal. We have decided to push back the responsibility of adulthood into the midtwenties. That's fine. It's nice to have time to figure out what you want to do with your life and to explore your options and be young. But if you think that just because you're not ready for a career until you're twenty-two, you won't be ready for sex until then either, you're fooling yourself.

We can adjust as humans socially, but we can't adjust ourselves biologically. Girls enter puberty earlier than they used to (possibly due to nutrition, possibly due to hormones in meat--jury's still out : ) but are expected to wait years and years after puberty to be sexually active. Contrast this with the average woman getting her first period at sixteen and getting married at eighteen.

Why is our culture frightened of teenage female sexuality? Why? Is it because things have changed, and women are no longer financially dependent on men? Or is it simply that we can't let go of the idea that women and girls are not fragile beings who need to be coddled and protected, but equal beings who need to be educated and taught to take care of themselves?

I don't know. I didn't intend Breathless to be such a sexually charged book when I conceived it, but it's become that, especially in the third book where I've somehow got myself in the awkward position of exploring the ability of teenage girls to have orgasms. Why do I do this to myself? It's hard enough to sell books when you're spouting conservative values.

I guess it's just that I couldn't write a book about teenagers without portraying sex in the most realistic way I could. And I sometimes wonder if writers like Rachel Caine, who by my estimation graduated from high school in the late seventies, have any idea what sex is like for teenagers today.

Lest my post come off as all doom and gloom, I would like to say that (at least my upperclassmen--11th and 12th graders) do seem to be pretty mature about sex. They don't have problems talking about it candidly, and I don't get the impression that they're being stifled or taught that they're sexual feelings are wrong or innappropriate. This, in my opinion, is progress, and it's a far cry from what it was like just ten years ago when I graduated from high school. So...things are changing for the better, actually. Kudos to the new generation. You guys kick ass. (Just don't listen to people who write young adult fiction. Except me. Okay, no, wait. Listen to everyone. But use your brain and draw your own conclusions.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

True Blood, Se2 Ep1

It's been a while since I read the second Sookie Stackhouse book, so this morning I spent some time refamiliarizing myself with the plot. Once I started watching the season premiere this morning, I noticed some pretty big differences. First of all, I guess I never realized that the Tara on the series is waaay different from the Tara in the books, who apparently didn't appear until sometime in the second or third books and was never, like, Sookie's best friend. Which is fine, though, because I like the character of Tara in the series. She's spunky. And besides, for a show set in Louisiana, it would be absolutely weird if there were no African American main characters.

Oddly enough, they've decided that the body in the car that is discovered at the beginning of the book and the second season is not Lafayette in the series. I'm unsure as to why they did this. After all, part of the reason that Lafayette got killed at all was because he was going to these sex parties in the book. Having the voodoo lady from the woods killed is kind of weird, because I just can't picture her at sex parties...

Hmm. We'll see what they do with that. Overall, I guess I'm glad Lafayette isn't dead. He's a superfun character. I think it's weird that he's being held captive by Eric, though. WTF??

I'm guessing that the lady that Tara is staying with is the maenad from the book, but time will tell about that as well.

I'm also unsure as to why there's this new character of the new vampire that Bill has to take care of. I don't remember her from the book either.

I read an interview with the show's creator, where he said that the second season would probably be less faithful to the book than the first season was. In some ways, I'm a little disappointed by that. On the other hand, for the most part, the departures that the television series has made from the book so far have been pretty solid. I really enjoy the television series. It's smart and sexy.

(Although, I got to say, I was a little weirded out by Sookie kissing Bill after he bit her and getting her own blood in her mouth. I mean, I've got no problem with kissing after oral sex, but blood... Eew. And messy. Messy, messy, messy. Of course, while we're on this subject, I want to know why no one ever talks about menstruation in vampire stories. Maybe that's gross too, but I just brought up vampires and oral sex in one paragraph. I think it was a natural progression.)

Overall, I'm excited for this season. It's very cool to have an awesome show with new episodes in the summer. Hooray!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Morganville Vampires and True Blood

What could I possibly be doing that's more fun than blogging? Doing? Not so much. Obsessing? Maybe, just a teensy bit.

So...Breathless is going on its third week of serialization, and I've been on summer vacation from teaching for exactly five days. What have I accomplished in this time? Well, I've been working on getting the novel's episodes, or chapters, into pdf format. I'm up to chapter 11 at this point, so that's at least one tangible accomplishment. I created some t-shirts. I also made a linkable banner which I posted on the site and on myspace. So, those are also some tangible accomplishments.

Today, I started really looking into putting the darned thing into print. I'm using Createspace, which is Amazon's P.O.D. service. It looks like it's going to be pretty simple. I started formatting the book files in word (they'll have to be exported to pdf at some point), but then I realized that formatting should probably be the last step and that I should really make sure I had done a final edit of the book for sentence issues, spelling and the like. That sounds about as fun as root canal, so I abandoned the project for now.

Instead, I decided to focus on the cover, because designing a cover sounds like way, way more fun. I just spent about an hour collecting jpegs of covers of current YA books so that I could get a feel for what the designing trends are like these days. Sadly, books no longer feature covers with tons of images floating into each other like they did when I was a kid. It's too bad, because when I was a teenager, I spent hours creating covers for my stories, and they always looked like that.

Today, most covers feature a dominant image, and disturbingly enough, it's generally a female body part. I think this must have started with Twilight and the hands. Still. Nearly all of the covers I looked at featured a girl's face or her hands or shoulder or her back. I'm torn. I could certainly go this way with the cover for Breathless. Heck, I've even got an idea, featuring a certain necklace that Azazel's mom gives her in like episode nine. I'd have to dig up a necklace like that, of course. Still. I'm not sure why women's bodies are used to sell like everything. Men's magazines. Women's magazines. Beer. Makeup. Cars.

It's ridiculous. If I'm going to use a body part, I'm toying with the idea of using a guy's. That's right, Aaron, prepare to be my cover model. Mwah ha ha!! Besides, I really like my boyfriend's hands, and I already did use his eye for a Trembling banner.

Blegg. But who cares about my writing, right? I mean, everything I read about blogging says that if you're trying to use your blog to attract readers, you should not talk about yourself, because, let's face it, if people don't know who you are, they aren't going to google you.

Which brings us to the title of the blog. Right.

Um, kay. So, I'm in the middle of reading Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires series, and I am absolutely blown away. It is super awesome and fabulous. I love the moral ambiguity she's weaving through the story. I love the fact that the vampires are actually scary (they are monsters, remember?) and I really like the fact that it's set in Texas. I only lived in Texas for two weeks, but I really enjoyed my time there.

And I'm learning tons about the way to construct a love scene (minus the, uh, love since it's a teen book) from her. She writes such sexy, sexy...let's call them makeout scenes, shall we? I am absolutely drooling over Shane.

And, I'm ridiculously excited about the new season of True Blood. I'm a huge, huge, huge fan of Charlaine Harris. She the best thing that happened to vampires since Laurell K, and the only adult vampire series I read anymore. (Despite the fact that she has weretigers. I mean, really, come on! Whoever heard of weretigers????)

The first season was great. I think the television show has a little bit of a different tone than the books. It's not quite as funny. But it's good stuff. It's one of the best vampire shows on TV.

I won't be able to watch it until tomorrow, since I watch all my TV online. No cable. It's the wave of the future, really. But I plan on writing a blog about the first episode and all my impressions.

Ta ta for now. (And really. I'm going to get better about this blogging thing. I swear.)